Monday, May 30, 2016

Yay Summer!

We have had a lovely spring, but we are now crossing the line into summer weather.   

My knee-jerk reaction when I think "summer" is "ugh."   I struggle with the hot weather.  And then there are mosquitos.   And ticks.  And humidity.  And hot cars.  And flies in the house.  And crazy high electric bills from running the A/C.  

This year I am focusing on a quote I read years ago.  It was about winter, but it's equally applicable to summer.  "[Summer] brings the kind of weather you either face head-on and enjoy or shrink from all season long."  

I am determined to face summer head-on this year and enjoy it!  When I get past that initial reaction and start really thinking about it, I get pretty excited.  

Really, it's going to be a great summer.  With the twins getting older it is so much easier to go do stuff than it was last year.  We can explore all kinds of places.  We can play with friends.  We can work on projects inside and out, from scout merit badges to the last of the boxes I have never unpacked after this move.  

Having a reprieve from homeschool for two months is going to be awesome.  

We will eat watermelon and homemade popsicles.  

We will go swimming.  Probably lots of swimming!  It's great to be excited about swimming; I haven't always been. 

We will watch our garden grow and eat yummy things we grew ourselves.   

We will catch fireflies.  We will listen to the cicadas.  

We will take late-evening walks around our lovely neighborhood.

We will go to a parade.

We will be champion summer readers at the library.  

We will attend two weddings!  

It's going to be awesome!

Random Nessie Sighting

My sister bought me a ladle awhile back that looks like the Loch Ness Monster.  We've had a lot of fun with it! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Family Scripture Study

I don't know about you, but my experience with family scripture study has been that it ebbs and flows.  Sometimes it goes pretty well for a period of time, and sometimes-- well, actually a lot of time time-- it just doesn't.  Either we can't seem to get our act together to make it happen, or the scripture time itself is a major battle, with wild toddlers and older kids arguing with each other.

We set a goal at the beginning of the year to try to make scripture study happen more regularly.  We're setting aside a little bit of money each month toward something fun at the end of the year if we can get through the whole Book of Mormon this year.  I figured we needed to read 20 chapters a month and that means we only need to read 2/3 of the time.  Since we do try to read daily that didn't sound hard, but the reality is that we are currently a little bit behind.  That's been eye opening to realize how those "oh well, we'll for sure do it tomorrow" days add up.  So we're trying harder.  I have a little chart that we color that helps us stay on track. 

Right now some good things are happening with our family scripture study, and that makes me happy.  For years, we didn't have much of a system as to who read: usually the Badger or I would just read most of the chapter, maybe trading off halfway.  Maybe one of the kids would read a verse, or a column, or something, but there was no set system.  Recently, we started doing what my family did when I was little.  We take turns reading, moving around the room in a circle, and everyone reads two verses.  I like this because it makes everyone pay attention so they're ready for their next turn.  It's a little more effort at first because you have to make sure every reader has a set of scriptures in front of them, and with a big chaotic family that can seem like a monumental task.  We recently got new sets of scriptures for the older kids who didn't have them yet, so at the moment we have the advantage of kids excited about a chance to use their new scriptures.  I hope that by the time that excitement wears off, we will have established a habit. 

A Comparison

I think it's pretty obvious at this point that the twins are not identical.  For comparison purposes, I thought it would be fun to compile pictures of each of my kiddos at about eighteen months old.  

Bean, 2002


Fish, 2004


Roo, 2007


Rabbit , 2009


Peanut


Frog


Leaf and Twig


Eighteen Months

We have now made it to a year and a half with the twins.  It seems like a pretty big milestone.  They are not really babies anymore, though in some ways they are more baby-like than my other kids at this age.  Maybe it just feels that way because the normal demands on me are doubled.  But they do still nap twice a day and nurse frequently round the clock, so I definitely still feel like I'm in the baby zone.

People are always telling me how chill they are.  They are pretty mellow, which is such a blessing.  They do egg each other on when it comes to mischief though.

They love stuffed animals and books.   And my cell phone.  And chewing on the charge cord for my cell phone.  We have had to buy six or seven new charge cords over the last several months because the twins ruin them when they chew on them.  I try to keep them out of their reach, but they somehow always find them. 

In these pictures Twig is on the left and Leaf is on the right. 



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pie!

We all really love pie around here.  Unfortunately, it's a rarity since pies are a lot of work and I'm insanely busy.  So we all really enjoyed the strawberry rhubarb pie I made for my birthday. 

Smile, kids. 


Oh, Peanut!  Let's try again.  


Oh, Frog!  One more time.  


That's a pretty good one.  Now let's take a peek inside.  

Heavenly! 

Strawberries Again



A few days after our first strawberry patch trip I went back again with just Frog and Fish.  We had such a fun time!  Taking a three year old to a berry patch is kind of a gamble, but Frog turned out to be really awesome to pick strawberries with.  He had an eye for the biggest, reddest, roundest berries and those were the only ones he would pick. 

If a strawberry was not ripe yet, he would say it was "getting to be a strawberry." 

"That one's a strawberry and that one's getting to be a strawberry." 

I've been pondering that for a few days now.  It's kind of profound.  For those of us who are striving to become something, it puts a different spin on it to say we're "getting to be" that.  "It's not ripe yet" versus "getting to be a strawberry."  It's another way of looking at people around us, maybe people who are struggling or aren't ready yet for the next step in whatever progression (homeschool, running, spiritual progression, whatever.)  We may all be a little unripe still, but with some sunshine, some rain, and some time, we can all get to be strawberries. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Birthday Weekend

Here's what I wrote in my little phone diary yesterday and today.  

Saturday

First thing in the morning I worked in the yard.  It was pretty muddy but I did get some good things done in little bits here and there.  I pulled out all the radish plants that had gone to seed.  I don't know why the leaves grew so big but not the roots.  We never really had any radishes to eat from that group that the Badger planted.  Maybe the kids will have better luck with radishes in their gardens.

Late morning I worked in the kitchen making pie for my birthday tomorrow.   The Badger mowed the lawn and did some weed eating along the edges of the front flower beds.  He had to work hard to get the weed eater to work but he finally figured it out and the front yard looks so nice. 

After lunch I took the Rabbit and we went to a baptism at the church for a boy in her Primary class.  They had asked me to play the piano.  I enjoyed that; I always enjoy playing the piano.  By the time the baptism was over Bean and Fish had turned up at the church.  They had been at a Young Men's activity at a park in a nearby town. They had a really fun time.  i am glad to see my boys developing good relationships with the other boys at church.  We have some great young men in our ward.

I sent the kids all home with Sister M and I went grocery shopping by myself: what luxury!

Then I took a nap.  It was late in the day at that point but I really needed it. 

The Badger got going making my official birthday dinner.  I had asked for Navajo tacos.  He rolled the fry bread out very thin, so it was very crispy.  It was amazingly delicious but by the time we were all done eating most of us felt pretty awful from eating so much oil.  I don't think I want to have Navajo tacos again for my birthday dinner, and I think I shall be eating very little fried food from here on out. 

Fish invited me to come outside and lie on a blanket on the back lawn with him.  We looked up at the sky and watched the stars come out.  We saw bats flying around.  It was lovely. 

Sunday

Happy birthday to me!  

We were on time to church for once,  but that was just because we left Bean behind.  We were all ready to go and he was just crawling out of bed. 

The kids were pretty wiggly during Sacrament Meeting, particularly Frog.   The Badger left partway through to go pick up Bean; he took Twig with him.  After Sacrament Meeting I took Leaf into the nursery for the first time.  She sat on my lap for a long while, then she started playing a little bit with toys.  Then it was snack time; she was very hesitant about eating at first but then she got going and ate what the boy next to her left as well as her own.  Then it was coloring time, which she was okay with.  She sort of knew what to do with the crayons.  Then music time, which she seemed to like.  Twig showed up at that point.   By then Leaf was pretty comfortable with things so I had Twig on my lap.  After music they got out play dough.   Leaf kept trying to eat it.  Twig just sat in my lap.  Then it was time to go. 

I can't believe the twins are old enough for nursery.  It's just so weird to go in there and see all these little kids and then see that my twins are their size and not baby size anymore. 

I needed a long nap after church, since I didn't get much sleep last night.  I slept deep.  That was good.  Best birthday present I could get was a big nap. 

The D. family from our ward came over in the evening.  We had nachos (pretty much what we had yesterday except on chips instead of fry bread) and later,  pie.   I made two kinds of pie.  Yesterday I baked a strawberry rhubarb pie as well as an empty crust.  Today I made a fresh strawberry pie with the empty crust.  And there was vanilla ice cream too.  So we kind of had a lot of dessert.  But, pie.  Yeah.  The strawberry rhubarb was the best.  I am so full.  I feel like a python after a large meal. 

Brother D worked with Bean on scout stuff, getting him signed off on the Sustainability merit badge finally.  That means he now qualifies for Life Scout.  Wow!  We are on the final stretch of the trail to Eagle! 

Having Bean move forward in scouting was a wonderful birthday present for me... after all the confusion of his scout records over so many different moves I have been eager to help him get it all sorted out and get moving forward.  Figuring out how to get him to finish the Sustainability merit badge has been bugging me for months, so really it was a great present.  The kids gave me some lip balm and some candy, but the Badger and I agreed that money is tight so I was fine with not really getting any presents this year.  I did have a couple of nice cards, and Sister D brought me some little presents like a candle and a small notebook that made me happy.

I hope I get a better night's sleep tonight.  Right now Leaf keeps me up late and then Twig always wakes up quite early in the morning (6ish).  Sometimes this means I only get 5 hours of sleep.  I would definitely like this amount to increase!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Strawberry Picking







A strawberry patch is just about my favorite place in the entire world.  It's been several years since we last went strawberry picking and I was pretty excited to have a chance to go again.  I didn't want to take all the kids at once, so I told them I would split them up into two groups and make two separate trips to the patch.  For the first trip I took Bean, Roo, the Rabbit, and Peanut, along with a friend of Bean's.  So, just five kids.  No big deal. We had a glorious time.  The fruit was a little on the small side, but not lacking at all in flavor.  The weather was slightly chilly, and little Peanut was sometimes cold, but I would rather deal with that than with heat and mosquitoes.  We saw a few big fat toads amongst the strawberry plants, which delighted us all.   We ended up with gobs of juicy red jewels, which became mostly strawberry shortcake and strawberry jam.  It was an absolutely heavenly outing!   

Rabbit's Baptism

My little Rabbit was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week.  It was a very lovely service.  She asked Fish to give a talk and he did such a good job.  The kids all sang Come Into the Water, which has become a family baptism tradition.  Here are a few pictures of the event. 



We tried to get a family photo afterward... it didn't work so well.  Can you see Frog hiding under me?


So we pulled him out and the Badger held him, but he must have been feeling really insecure because he's holding onto my hair, which is his security blanket.  


You can see from these pictures how the Rabbit was just bursting with joy all through the service.  My Rabbit is so full of love and enthusiasm.  She is an absolutely delightful person who is going to make a big difference in this world.  I am so grateful to be her mother!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Piano Quartet


Aren't they cute?


I love it that they love music!

Bucket of Mud








I got up one fine May morning and dressed the twins in cute matching outfits.  I had just switched their clothes over to size 18 month summer clothes, and there were all these darling outfits from my friend Sarah.  For this morning I picked the matching outfits with the khaki pants and the pastel shirts with cute lace on the sleeves. 

Then we went outside to work in the garden.  It had rained, so I went around dumping water out of containers that had standing water in them.  The big blue tub had had dirt in the bottom, so after I dumped out the water I noticed there was a couple inches of mud in the bottom.  I set it aside to deal with later, and went and got busy weeding. 

The twins somehow found that blue bucket immediately.  By the time I noticed, their clothes were already stained, so I figured I would just let them go to town.  It was so cute watching them.  They had the time of their lives! 

Thank goodness for stain remover spray!

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Achievement

Sometimes my crazy idea of taking up running doesn't seem like it's getting anywhere.  The progress, which started out rapid, has been very slow these last couple of months, and in fact has seemed nonexistant for weeks at a time. 

Sometimes I don't run as often as I should; my goal is three times a week but I am a homeschooling mom of eight and there have been weeks when I was lucky to get one chance to run. 

Sometimes I think I am pushing myself too hard.  I am a homeschooling mom of eight who is nursing twins, for heaven's sake.  I can't waste all my strength on exercise. 

When I run, I pray for the help of heaven to encourage me and help me keep my thoughts positive and also to help me know when I am really overdoing it.  These prayers work. 

I know I need heavenly help because I know this is really important right now, and it's hard for me.  I feel very driven to improve my health and stamina at this time, even with all I have on my plate.  This is not easy for me for so many reasons, and there are a lot of negative voices in my head that encourage me Not to run, or make me want to hate it while I am doing it, and then stop as soon as possible.   So I pray for help, and it comes as gentle encouragement while I trot along. 

Last Friday I did something that for years of my life I would have thought was impossible.   In fact I don't know that I have ever done it before, even as a child.  I jogged an entire mile without taking a walk break.   It took me more than four months of training to be able to do that, but it finally happened. 

Today I did it again.  It wasn't horribly hard.  In fact, I rather enjoyed it.  My time was 13:10, which isn't much faster than my mile time has been for awhile now, walking probably a third of the distance.   So I was jogging even slower than usual,  and my usual is already slow. 

But knowing that I can sustain even a slow jog for that distance is so empowering to me.  If I keep at this, it really will happen that someday I will be able to run an entire 5K without walking, which is still hard for me to imagine. 

I am planning on running my first race at the end of the month.  (Anne, I wish it would have worked out to do that KC Temple run with you; maybe next year?)  I expect that I will run about 2/3 of the distance in short chunks and walk the rest.  My goal is to finish in less than 45 minutes.   I will probably be on the tail end of the finishers, but I will feel really good about that time. 

Last Friday after I ran that mile I continued on to complete five kilometers (walking and running) and my time was 45:37.  So I know I can do this!

I am grateful for running.  I am grateful for chunks of time away from kids and chaos where I can think.  I really don't have the time for it, but I need it so badly.   I am grateful for the increase in stamina and cardiovascular health.  I can really feel the difference.  I love the direction this is going, and the thought that if I just keep at it I will keep getting better. 

And I love the manifestation of the idea that sometimes you think what you're doing isn't working and that you're not getting anywhere and then one day, boom!  There you are.  My hope is that I will see that in my homeschool efforts as well. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Leaf Eats a Burrito


Outside Pictures


We are totally loving this honeysuckle bush on our back deck!  


Here you can see where I've been planting things out front.  I planted several plants each of salvia, blanketflower, and echinacea.  My friends gave me the celosia (the small plants with red leaves) and while it was not something I would have picked out myself at the nursery I am loving the contrast it provides. 


Here's two of the spirea, with the crape myrtle behind.  The red-leafed barberry bush on the left and the large yew on the right came with the house.  The barberry has been nicknamed "the Youch bush" because of the prickles.   Some of us want to tear it out... we shall see.


Two more spirea with one more crape myrtle on the other side of the bay window:


And here we are working in our garden plots out back.  Don't let Fish's face fool you.  He's loving it out there, as are we all.  


Some Favorite Books

A question I always used to hate was, "what is your favorite book?"  When I was young I read voraciously.   I loved so many books I couldn't begin to pick a favorite, or even a dozen favorites!  

Now that I am older I have less time to read, so I spend my reading time a little more carefully.  It's easier now to see what my favorite books are because they are the ones I keep coming back to, even after all this time and even with a limited reading budget.

I want to start making lists of several categories of favorite books.  I figured my blog might be a good place to do that.  

Today I want to list some of my favorite books and authors for grade-school children.  This is the age for great read-alouds.  How about I give you five authors and five single books?

Let's start with authors: 
Maude Hart Lovelace: the Betsy Tacy series.  I grew up on these because I grew up in the town where they took place, and echos of the stories were all around me.   I loved the characters of Betsy and Tacy and Tib then and I love them just as much now.  These books are delightful,  innocent, and fun.  The first book, Betsy Tacy, makes a great early read-aloud for a child who is just starting to be able to follow a purely oral storyline (Peanut, at age five, is now arriving at this wonderful point.) But you can keep reading and follow Betsy through high school and college and beyond.   

Elizabeth Enright: I can't say enough about Elizabeth Enright.  When you're done with the completely delightful quartet of books about the Melendy family (starting with The Saturdays) then you can move on to the utterly marvelous Gone-Away Lake and its sequel.  These are must-reads, in my opinion.

Eleanor Estes: If you like the Melendys, you will probably also like the Moffat family.  I did, and my kids did too.  Lately we have been exploring other books by Eleanor Estes.  I just started reading aloud The Alley  and we like it so far.  

Patricia MacLachlan: There is just something about the way this woman writes: simple words that are deep, thoughtful, and poignant.  I have always loved Sarah, Plain and Tall.  There are several sequels.  She also has some other books that are very worthwhile.  When I was young I really identified with  Unclaimed Treasures and The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt.  

L. M. Montgomery:  She has to be one of my top favorite authors ever.  Luckily, she was prolific!  Listening to Anne of Green Gables on our car trip I marveled again at the sheer brilliance of that book: the characters, the dialogue, the descriptive scenery...  I love it so much, but I love the other books in that series even more.  And there are eight of them!  And many other books besides!  Most of her writing is more for older readers, but Roo and Rabbit were really getting into Anne on audio, and I bet they would enjoy some of her other books too, at this point.  Maybe Rainbow Valley?


Now, some single books I really love for the elementary crowd:

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh:  This is a new discovery for me.  We just read this one aloud and it's another book that is perfect for a young listener like Peanut.  Peanut loved it, and all the older kids enjoyed it too.  Even Bean listened.  It got the kids' imaginations all fired up, and when that happens I am always happy.  

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat:  I love this book so much I can hardly stand it.  A young boy growing up in Saskatchewan ends up with two pet owls with a whole lot of personality.  Much hilarity ensues.

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey: Do you remember this one?  The diamond bracelet in the automatic donut making machine?  The fierce competition for the world's largest ball of string? How Homer catches robbers with the help of his pet skunk, Aroma?  Your kids are going to adore this book. 

The Good Master by Kate Seredy: I read this to Bean years ago and it's one of his all-time favorites.  Recently we read it again and this time Fish, Roo, and the Rabbit all enjoyed it too.  Jancsi (Yon-chee) is a young boy growing up on a prosperous farm on the great plains of Hungary a hundred or so years ago.  When Cousin Kate arrives from Budapest, things get lively.  

101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith:  I loved this book so much when I was a kid.  Then the movie came out and all my friends were like "oh yeah, we love 101 Dalmations!" and I was like "NO!!! THEY RUINED IT!!!"  Forget the movie and go get a copy of the original book.  Your kids will adore it.  Fish told me the other day that he has read it or listened to the audio recording dozens of times over the years.  I was happy to hear that!  

Well, those are the ones I can think of off-hand.  If I go and look through the dozen or so bookcases we have in this house I am sure I would find more beloved favorites.  Hooray for books!

Happiness Is...

...a trip to the greenhouse in May!  Look at what gets to live and grow in our garden!









I am sorry if I was kind of gloomy on here last week.  It turned out I was coming down with a bit of a cold and that was making me extra tired. 

I truly love teaching my children.  I think I am a good teacher, and I am very grateful that I can have them home with me.  I also do worry about being spread too thin.  And I want to make sure Bean has a high school experience that will open the doors of his future and not hold him back.  I would love to see some or all of the kids branch out more and have more experiences outside the home in the near future.  But if the Spirit guides me to school all of them home next year, I will do it gladly, I will give it my all, and I am sure that along with frustration and fatigue we will have a lot of really wonderful times. 

In the mean time, we have a garden to grow!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's May!

I think May is the prettiest month of the year.  It's my birthday month, so maybe I'm biased.  But the green, blooming days of May are to be treasured.  I am looking forward to the next few weeks. 

Looking at our front landscaping, I knew I needed a large shrub to go right next to the front door.  I thought about it, and decided a crape myrtle would be just the ticket.  Then someone from church posted on Facebook that she was digging some crape myrtles out of her yard and did anyone want them?  ME!  I hurried over there and got two crape myrtles-- might as well put on on the other side of the bay window to match!  She also had several spirea bushes and when I saw them I knew they'd be perfect in my front bed as well.  I got four of those. 

I spent yesterday evening planting these treasures.  It was so fun digging around in the dirt, and they look so good out there!  I have to say that there is a chance the crape myrtles won't survive the transplant, as they were already looking upset when I picked them up, but I have been talking to them and telling them how much I love them and need them, so hopefully they will perk up in their new home. 

Some friends dropped by yesterday and gave me a few pretty annuals they had extra, so I planted those too, and I am pretty excited about the way my front yard is looking right now. 

I love my house, I love my yard, and I love my neighborhood.  These things are a great blessing to me right now. 

We have seven more weeks of our homeschool year, and I must confess that I'm worn out.  I'm looking forward to summer break, and of course the kids are too.  Some of our subjects are already wrapping up, which makes our days a little easier, but other subjects will have to stay on full blast in order to be done by our deadline.  For the most part, the kids have gradually improved in their ability to work diligently and independently, but as the year draws to a close it's hard to keep all of us on task, even me sometimes. 

What to do next year is weighing heavily on my mind.  I do not like how thin I was spread this year, and  I want to make sure Bean doesn't get shortchanged when it comes to High School.  So I am re-examining every option out there: public school, private school, online school, co-ops, supplemental activities... this can be frustrating and discouraging.  I have a strong thirst for excellence in education.  I have seen the power of a good education, as well as the problems that are caused by a lack of one.  I have spent untold hours studying education and educational methods.  I am very drawn to certain private schools because of the high quality of education, but they are completely out of our budget at this point.  Sometimes I think maybe if we scrimp and eat lots of ramen noodles and get some financial aid that maybe we could afford to send one of our kids to a private school, but it's really still not feasible at this point.  I am more and more dismayed with the public school system for so many reasons, and when I think about sending my kids there it just really feels really really wrong.  I still think about it a lot, because there are a lot of good things available there that I would like my children to have (band! drama! science labs!) but every time I think about it I just get this NO! feeling in my heart.  The co-ops around here don't tend to be accepting of LDS people, which is extremely frustrating, especially since some of them are extremely well-organized and have some great offerings for high schoolers.  Efforts to rally the local LDS homeschooling community have fizzled.  

I trust the Lord.  I've said it before, they are His children, not mine.  He has a plan for them.  If He is telling me no about certain options, it means that there will be a yes and it will be what it right for my kids, even if it wouldn't be my top pick.  I think my top pick at this point would be to have $25,000 magically appear so that I could dress five of my children in smart-looking uniforms each morning and drop them off at the classical Christian private school, then go home and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of just Frog and the twins... what a dream.  I am so tired. 

Do you suppose our pioneer ancestors had days as they trudged across the plains when they dreamed of having a nice carriage appear with servants to cook their meals and do their laundry?  And inns to sleep in every night along the way?  They probably did sometimes.  (And if they'd known about the cars and freeways and hotels and fast-food restaurants that would someday line their very route, they might not have been able to stand it!)  They probably had many days where they questioned what on earth they had gotten themselves into.  I bet there wasn't a day when they weren't exhausted by the time they fell into their bedroll. 

But they kept going.  And I will, too.  I will just keep doing my best.  It's okay to be exhausted.  I will keep trusting that the Lord will provide what my children really need, when they need it. 

And I will find peace and rejuvenation in the green beauty of May!